Adam Scorer calls for 'targeted financial support' on energy bills
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A number of organisations are calling for energy firms and the Government to urgently investigate why so many Britons have missed out on promised discounts amid freezing winter temperatures. The state promised every household would be eligible to receive a £400 energy bill discount to help alleviate the impacts of surging costs. While customers on direct debit automatically receive the discount, the process is not as simple for customers on prepayment meters, many of whom are on low incomes.
To receive the extra cash, these customers have to redeem vouchers sent in the post or via SMS at their local top-up points, but many of these have still not been received, leaving thousands of Britons in the dark amid subzero temperatures.
Earlier this month, Express.co.uk reported an estimated 1.3 million vouchers for homes with prepayment meters have either been lost, delayed or unclaimed, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people missing out on the Government’s vital discounts.
Now, a number of organisations, including Which?, Citizens Advice, Age UK and Money Saving Expert and Fuel Poverty National Energy Action, have written a letter to the Government urging it to take action.
The letter, which is addressed to Business and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps reads: “We are writing to raise our serious concern that vital Government help with energy bills is not reaching hundreds of thousands of people who need it most.
“We urge you to take immediate action so that customers can access this vital support as the cold weather sets in and puts vulnerable groups, including older and disabled people, at greater risk of health difficulties and even death.”
Sharleen Holiday, 71 a 41-year from Middlesborough is one of those vulnerable customers who is yet to receive a discount voucher from her supplier British gas. She has severe mental health problems, and due to this, she cannot leave the house. She lives in a flat with her carer and she said the pair are surviving on one meal every three days at times just to keep warm.
She told Express.co.uk: “From October 13 2022 I’ve been phoning British Gas every week about my first lot of Government help energy prepayment vouchers. They have just been fobbing me off every two seconds. All British Gas even say and tell me is the vouchers are in the post and that they have to wait till they receive them from the Government.
“To date, I still haven’t received my first lot of vouchers, never mind my third lot. I’m still left in limbo, still left with nothing. I’m putting £90 a week on the electricity and I can’t afford to keep doing it. We are getting pushed from pillar to post.
“It’s getting to the point where we are having one meal every three days if we are lucky so we can keep the electricity on. Some days we go without anything just to put the gas on. We have no family support to get financial help.
“It’s as though with us being on legacy benefits we don’t matter. My mental health has dramatically been affected by the worry and stress of me being able to afford to put the gas and electricity on each month.”
But Ms Holiday and her carer are far from the only ones stuck in this nightmare situation. In fact, Government data shows that 34 percent of vouchers were not redeemed across October to November.
The letter sent to the Government added: “While we appreciate that this may be due to a variety of factors, it is essential that these reasons are identified so that both systematic and specific issues can be addressed and customers can easily and conveniently access this support, particularly ahead of the festive season when many will be relying on this support to make ends meet. It cannot be right that millions of pounds of Government support is going unclaimed while low income and vulnerable groups are at risk.”
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Which? says if you are on a traditional prepayment meter and haven’t received your vouchers or are unsure of how to redeem them, you should get in touch with your supplier for more information and to make sure they have the correct contact details.
According to a poll by YouGov for the Warm This Winter campaign, 64 percent of pre-payment meter customers are vulnerable, with 51 percent having health conditions or disabilities. and almost a third of prepayment meter customers are reportedly living in cold damp homes.
For those also classified as vulnerable, the situation is even bleaker, with 36 percent reportedly living in a cold damp home.
BEIS and British Gas have been contacted for comment.
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